At 8:15pm on July 20, 1969, Eagle, The Apollo 11 Lunar Module, landed on the surface of The Moon. The noble crew was part of a mission that aimed to expand the horizons of the human race. As man prepared to make a giant leap, 600 million people tuned in to watch... The space race was over, and the USA had won! After the trials and the tribulations of the crew of the Apollo 11, their reward is permanently ingrained on a plaque they left on the Moon, inscribed: ‘Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind.’
The other ‘first’ man
Neil Armstrong will forever be known as the first man on the moon but fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin has his own ‘first’ – he took communion in the middle of the first moonwalk. He remains the only man to have conducted a religious ceremony on the moon’s surface. NASA asked him not to speak about it after atheists had filed a lawsuit against Apollo 8 astronauts broadcasting a reading of a Bible passage.
To congratulate the intrepid astronauts former President Richard Nixon had to place a record-breaking long-distance telephone call at approximately 240,000 miles from the White House.
First rocket fired
The space race was a real battle fought between Soviet Russia and the United States of America. After the Second World War both nations were striving to create technology they could use as a deterrent against the other – if one could send a man to the moon, one could send a nuclear missile to the other side of the planet. The Russians struck the first blow in 1957 with Sputnik – the first manmade object in space – which orbited for three months before falling back to Earth. It caused panic in America with people fearful the Russians were more technologically advanced than they had realised.
the losses along the way
The Apollo programme wasn’t without its problems. Operations were suspended for nearly 2 years after the Apollo 1 disaster when, during a test flight a fire spread through the cabin and killed all three pilots – Virgil Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. The brave astronauts do have a unique memorial however, each had jokingly named a star after themselves and after the disaster these names became the official designations of three stars that light up the night.
Each astronaut in the Apollo 11 crew were allowed to take small personal effects on their journey. Neil Armstrong took with him a part of the left propeller from the Wright Flyer (the first powered aircraft designed by the Wright brothers) and a lapel pin designed and made by the widows of the Apollo 1 crew, in honour of those they had lost, so that they too could fly to the stars.
The legacy of Apollo 11 is vast and far-reaching, some tales however slipped under the radar, such as Buzz recalling looking out of the window as they were lifting off The Moon only to watch the thrusters blow over the flag they had planted.
Who’s that man?
A lot of the famous pictures of an astronaut on The Moon are of Buzz Aldrin not Neil Armstrong as many believe – Neil was holding the camera most of the time.
stay in the car
Pilot Michael Collins remained in orbit around the Moon in The Command Module Columbia while his colleagues were dispatched to The Moon’s surface. When asked how it felt being so alone in space he replied, “Not since Adam has any human known such solitude”. It would be understandable for Collins to feel a bit short-changed, never having walked on The Moon’s surface, but he did get an awe-inspiring view only a handful of people have seen.
The Landing Zone
The Lunar Landing Module carrying the soon-to-be legendary astronauts landed in a region of the moon known as Mare Tranquillitatis (the Sea of Tranquillity. Three craters forever inscribed on the surface near the landing zone have been named Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins respectively, while the landing zone itself is called Tranquillity Base.
Snowcone and Haystack
In a NASA tradition the Apollo 11 crew named their spacecraft Snowcone and Haystack. Crews were urged to take it a bit more seriously though after the Apollo 10 team christened their craft Charlie Brown and Snoopy.